How to stand out from the crowd

Even when skills shortages are rife, competition among part-qualified accountants can be fierce. Calum Robson offers tips on how to stay ahead of your peers

It’s a common misconception that, to stand out, we have to be massive achievers, shouting our accomplishments from the rooftops. But making small behavioural changes can make a big difference to how you are perceived.

Find a model

One of the most effective ways of making changes is to look at the people you admire – not necessarily just in business or academia but also through personal contacts or even people in the media. What is it about them that marks them out as different in your eyes? What do they do or say? How do they carry themselves?

Also look at issues such as posture or tone of voice. How do your role models convey interest in other people in a convincing way? And how might you begin to modify your own behaviour in such a way that you begin to take on – and give out – some of those upbeat or reassuring characteristics?

Lend an ear – and a hand

How well we communicate is the most critical contribution to the impression we make on (and leave with) other people.

Listening is a vital social skill that anyone in business needs to master to be remembered in a positive fashion. Think about it – nothing’s more off-putting than talking to someone whose attention is wandering and who seems superficially interested in what you have to say. So take the time – in the office, at college, at a networking event – to give people your full attention, without appearing on standby to interrupt in order to get your own point across or start talking about yourself. Of course, that doesn’t mean having to be a doormat for every bore or loudmouth you chance to meet – but it does require being more selective when identifying the right people to speak to.

Why not stand out by being proactively involved in activities where you will meet those kinds of people? Your local ACCA office, college societies, study groups, and industry-related networks are just some of the organisations who welcome volunteers. Students who have the confidence to run for committee posts, or simply help run events, will rub shoulders with senior finance and HR professionals, and influential recruitment and training figures – all of whom will remember those students who pitched in to help.

If group work isn’t feasible, you can still stand out. Commit a certain amount of time each week to your own development. That might mean listening to motivational tapes, surfing the internet for inspiring sites or just tackling something new or challenging that will give you a boost. But be conscious of the impact that this time has on your personal growth, and remember to implement and maintain even the tiniest change. Others will then start to see the difference in you.


"Listening is a vital social skill that anyone in business needs to master to be remembered in a positive fashion"